A Rabbit or an Iguana? How about a chicken?

Blue IguanaThe Blue Iguana

Green Iguanas: too many to count.Green iguanas


WARNING: The following post contains content that may be unpleasant or disgusting to some.

In Calgary we had rabbits in our neighbourhood. Where there are rabbits, there are many rabbits. They made themselves at home in our yard, ate our flowers, our lettuce and anything else that may have been otherwise successful at growing in our garden. They curled up in their own indentations in the yard where they thought we couldn’t see them.

In Cayman, we have chickens and iguanas. The chickens are  annoying when they crow all night, but they are just part of life here. They don’t go in the pool and they never come up to my deck.

We have the native blue iguana, which is rare and is protected. I’ve never seen one outside of Queen Elizabeth Botanic Garden.  We also have the invasive green iguanas, which I’m told were brought from Jamaica as pets. If you come from colder climates, as I do, they at first seem very exotic. However, they have no natural predator here, although dogs seem to be adapting to that role,  and they multiply at a much faster rate than the blue iguana. They multiply like, well, like rabbits.

The green iguanas eat foliage. They can climb walls and they love to come out in the sunshine and relieve themselves on warm patios, pool decks and in swimming pools. They carry salmonella. They are not my pets. They are not my friends. They are no longer exotic to me. Imagine your yard and outdoor living area,( keeping in mind that most of our living is outdoors), overrun by dogs. Iguanas do not poop little rabbit pellets. The gifts they leave are like those left by dogs, but unfortunately, there is no conscientious owner following the dozens of iguanas around with little plastic bags or pooper-scoopers.

There are those who say that the iguanas are beautiful and historic creatures; that they should be left alone to thrive in nature. Would they say the same of the lionfish that is destroying the Caribbean reef? Maybe those same people would enjoy eating their breakfast on a feces covered patio. This is not their natural habitat and some feel that the green iguanas are taking over from the native blue iguana.

We used to arrive for a visit and find our deck covered in iguana poop. We have a second floor condo,  but they have no problem climbing up to our deck. I have seen the iguanas crouched over the swimming pool about to use it as a toilet. I don’t care if they are in the grass and the trees. I don’t want them where I live. I don’t want salmonella in the small swimming pool that I use and that families with children use. It is very difficult to clean iguana feces out of the pool as it disintegrates and disseminates.

Our condo pool and the surrounding deck and sidewalks are cleaned once a week. The iguanas seem to be most attracted to the area about 5 minutes after the cleaners leave. I have chased away many an iguana with our trusty broom. Running out the door and down the stairs, waving my broom at the offenders, has become a new form of recreation. I’m sure the neighbours think I’m crazy.

I’ve been reading about iguanas, as in “know thine enemy”, and learned that they are creatures of habit. It is my mission to break them of the habit of coming to the pool or coming on our deck, or to stop them from forming those habits in the first place. It’s a big job, but who better to do it that the crazy retired lady with the broom?


Planes, planes and automobiles

I’ve  just returned from a short visit to our families in Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC.  I have been in six different airports in six cities in under two weeks. I’ve been through security seven separate times. Yes, security! Seven times! Is it any wonder I am randomly selected for special screening so often? I expect it now. It’s no longer enough to pack so that my hair clips or keys don’t resemble a knife on the x-ray image. It doesn’t matter that my miniature toiletries are carefully placed in the appropriate sized clear zipper bag, or that I remove every piece of metal, wearing jeans that stay up without a belt. What I do doesn’t really matter when that “random” signal goes.

It’s not easy to get to my island, unless you live in the Centre of the Universe, or Toronto, to you non-Canadians.  There are both West jet and Air Canada flights from Toronto to Grand Cayman. To reach these morning flights from almost anywhere in Western Canada, an overnight flight is required.

After my overnight flight from Calgary, which arrived at 5:40 AM, I  waited in the chilly boarding area, surrounded by other red-eyed travelers from Vancouver, Edmonton, and possibly Winnipeg. Sometimes the seating area fills up just before the first boarding call, everyone fresh from their good night sleep in their Toronto beds. This time I wasn’t the only one that had been waiting since 6:30 or 7 AM for the 9:30 flight, so I didn’t feel quite the same resentment towards my fellow travelers.

The red-eye flight to Toronto is always full, and cold. For some, this makes sleep impossible. I have no trouble falling asleep. It’s the waking up every half hour with my head in awkward positions that gives me problems. Still, I continue to travel through Toronto,  because it means only one stop,  and no customs and immigration until I get home.

I went  to Canada through Houston. That meant that I had to clear customs in Houston, stay at a hotel overnight, re-enter security, fly to Calgary,clear Canada customs and re-enter security for the flight to Victoria.  In order to see family, I flew from Victoria to Saskatoon via Calgary, and later from Saskatoon to Calgary. I am still working on finding the best connection to allow the least disruption to my sleep and the fewest trips through security. I haven’t found it yet.

When I arrived home in Grand Cayman (and it still gives me a little thrill to say that!) I had to find our car, which my husband had parked in long term parking a week earlier. Did I mention that we seldom travel on the same itinerary but our trips usually overlap? He left for Canada a week after I did and would be coming home a week later.

Yes, it’s our car, but I had never seen it, and it was in the short term parking instead of the long term lot. The same day I left for Canada, my husband took the car that had major transmission problems and traded it. I had the key for the new car and a little ticket that said the car was parked in the short term lot because the long term lot was full. I stood in line with the people waiting for taxis, paid the attendant there for parking and waited for a different lady to bring change. I took my change and a receipt to show the parking attendant. I proceeded to the parking lot with my large roller bag and my small roller bag and my receipt.

One look and I recognized the car I’d never met before, my Amigo! It looks so much like the old Amiga, but without the transmission problems. My roller bags both fit in the trunk.  I only needed to wave my receipt at the parking attendant to release the gate and I was on my way home.

I felt like such a local as I turned right out of the parking lot instead of left, and made my way home through the almost non-existent Sunday traffic. If you’re new to the island, or staying on the South side or Eastern districts, it’s probably best to follow the signs. If you’re hungry, go right and stop at the George Town Yacht Club, which is what I should have done!

I have found as I get older that the overnight flights are taking their toll. I feel like I have jet lag when there is only a one hour time difference. On the other hand, it was nice to arrive home in the early afternoon and have time for a swim and a nap. My last meal was my 6 AM breakfast at the Toronto airport, so before the swim I needed a snack.

I bought my favourite Alberta cheese to bring home with me. Yes, this extra aged Gouda has even won gold medals at national competitions. I was going to test the regulations and see if Customs would let me bring it in. Unfortunately, I forgot the cheese in the fridge at my family’s house: the low sodium household.It’s not low in sodium.

Oh, did I mention that it was Sunday? Our stores are closed on Sundays in Cayman. The flight from Toronto is almost always on a Sunday. I arrive home sleep deprived and hungry. What I wouldn’t do to have my Alberta cheese right now. I found apples and a squash in the fridge, which I suppose was a healthy complement to the eggs Benedict I had for breakfast.

Still, I am very happy to be home. That was a week ago. A week later, I was very happy my husband  was on his way home, following the same  itinerary, He took a red eye flight to Toronto, where it was cold and raining, just as it was when I was there. He also ate an unhealthy breakfast. He would be arriving soon! There are some differences, though.

When he arrived, I’d be there waiting for him. I would drive him  in our newly serviced car to a home well stocked with food, including fresh local mangoes. He would be so happy to be home, and if I was lucky, he’d have my cheese.

Birds, Boats and Ironshore

IMG_5642Escape the Canadian winter forever and live a simpler life! That’s what we’ve  talked about for our entire married life.  I heard it from my husband before we were even married, and over the years his need to leave the cold behind has become more and more pressing. Like many northerners and Canada Geese, we tried to take annual winter vacations. After our birds left the nest, almost thirty years after we first started to dream about it, we decided to move permanently.

Birds, boats and ironshore are what I see when I wake up. If you’ve ever been on a Caribbean cruise and stopped at a beautiful island, surrounded by clear, turquoise water, you can picture my home. In fact I’m probably watching your cruise ship as it arrives in the morning and leaves at sunset. I also watch the birds. Some of those birds are like the cruise ships, just passing through. Some stay a little longer, like our winter residents. Some live here, like us.

This wasn’t my idea, but I supported it. Why not? Who doesn’t want to live in paradise?  Over the years, we vacationed on many beautiful islands, always in summer when school was out. They were family holidays and we snorkeled as a family, explored as a family, and had “pool days” where we’d stay at our temporary home and play or read by the pool as a family.

For our children, these were summer holidays. For my husband they were reconnaissance missions. Could we live here?  Would we want to live here? What is the cost of living? What are the residency requirements? How safe is it? Are the locals hostile?

So here we are in the Cayman Islands, empty nesters,  living the dream as my daughter puts it. Happily Ever After is for fairy tales, though, and we are not living in a movie. What happens after the protagonists sail off into the sunset? After all, the ironshore landscape may very well have inspired the name of the district known as Hell, and it does get very hot!

Don’t worry, this is not a horror story. I often feel like the luckiest person in the world, but luck had nothing to do with moving here. You could pack up your car and move to any number of warm places without any planning or preparation and if it all works out, that’s luck! Our move to Grand Cayman took years of planning, research and paper work. I am lucky in my family, friends and choices in life, and in the fact that I think I could be happy living almost anywhere.  Will that be true of my new home? Stay with me through this adventure and we’ll find out!